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Hatchet-wielding attacker at Canada mosque charged for possible hate-motivated attack, police say

By Amir Vera and Jennifer Henderson, CNN

The man who allegedly discharged bear spray while brandishing a hatchet at a mosque in the Canadian city of Mississauga is now facing multiple charges for what is “believed to be a hate-motivated incident,” Peel Regional Police said in a news release Monday.

The charges against Mohammad Moiz Omar, a 24-year-old Mississauga resident, include assault with a weapon; administering noxious substance with intent to endanger life or cause bodily harm; possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose; utter threat to cause death or bodily harm; carrying concealed weapon; and mischief to religious property, according to the release.

The attempted attack took place Saturday around 7 a.m. local time at Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Centre during the dawn prayer of Fajr, police said. The mosque said in a Facebook post the suspect who walked in was also armed with “numerous other sharp edged weapons.”

Noonrani Sairally, who’s been attending the mosque for more than a decade, told CNN Monday he heard a noise about seven to 10 minutes after the congregation started morning prayers.

“I heard a hissing noise over the sound system followed by a scream and when I turned around, I saw this man with a can of bear spray and a hatchet in his hand,” he said.

Sairally said that’s when worshippers, who were lined up in the middle of the mosque, immediately approached the attacker and pinned him to the ground.

“He (the attacker) didn’t realize the spray was making noise so that immediately alerted people in the first row,” Sairally said. “One of the young fellows in that row saw the hatchet and acted very quickly to knock it out of his hand. Then everyone quickly jumped on him and pushed him to the floor.”

The attacker didn’t say anything as worshippers waited for police to arrive because he had inhaled bear spray and was having trouble breathing, Sairally said.

Worshippers sustained minor injuries from the bear spray, police said.

Omar had a bail hearing in front of the Ontario Court of Justice in Brampton on Saturday.

“Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our community and we are taking this matter extremely seriously,” said Superintendent Rob Higgs, commander of 12 Division in the release. “This is an ongoing investigation led by 12 Division Criminal Investigations Bureau and we will continue to work closely with our community partners as our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Divisional Mobilization Officers continue to engage with faith leaders and community members.”

Mississauga is about 15 miles southwest of Toronto in the province of Ontario.

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CNN’s Caroll Alvarado, Rebekah Riess and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.

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